Every day, with every interaction, you are building or destroying your professional network. Everything you do is an act of business networking. Before you think I am just being overdramatic, think about how you treat your co-workers or your superiors, how you act while you are at work, how you react to pleas for help from your peers. If you look carefully, you will see a pattern.

In this pattern, there are some things you should never do, unless you want to miss out on the benefits of maintaining a good network. These five blunders are some of the worst:

1. Not reply to a request for help

When it comes down to it, most of networking is a never-ending round of favors. A friend asks you if you can pass his resume onto the hiring manager at a company you used to work at. You agree to help him out and put in the good word for him. A couple years later, that same friend is at a company you’re interested in applying to. You’re well-positioned to get your resume into the right hands and maybe get an endorsement in the process.

Now imagine this same scenario if you had opted not to help your friend. Now, years later, you might’ve cost yourself a great job.

Networking is all about karma. If you want to keep good opportunities coming your way, you need to keep sending out good things to everyone else. Pass resumes along when you can. Give advice. Help out on projects even if you won’t get any credit for it. People remember and these good deeds have a way of coming back to you.

2. Gossip

Just as sending out good things will bring good back to you, so backbiting about others will cause opportunity to avoid you like the plague. For example, let’s say you couldn’t stand Suzie’s flirty personality so you let everyone around you know about it. Every time you got a chance, you were criticizing her clothes and making up stories about her and generally passing along every rumor you heard.

What you didn’t know was that Suzie knew you were gossiping about her and she now has a very negative view of you. But she’s not the only one: everyone who heard you gossiping no longer trusts you either. They’re all afraid that, when their backs are turned, you’re gossiping about them, too. So forget about getting any letters of recommendation from them. You’ve successfully poisoned the well at your workplace.

3. Undermine leadership

Like it or not, one of the reasons leaders get where they are is because they tend to be great at networking. However, if you get on their bad side, their networking powers can turn against you.

When things aren’t going right at work, you may be tempting to gripe about how terrible management is and openly criticize them for everything that goes wrong or how unjustly they’ve treated you. What you don’t realize is, these leaders know you’re undermining them behind their backs. When the company you want to get a job with calls your old boss for a recommendation, their recommendation will be noticeably lukewarm.

4. Burn bridges

I hate to break it to you, but there is no one in your sphere of influence who might not factor into your career plans later. Recently, a friend who I barely remembered from some time I spent living out of state became instrumental in getting me a very good job. When he volunteered to help me get my resume into the right hands, I was glad I had been a good friend to him. In this same vein, there isn’t anyone who you can treat rudely without it coming back to you.

Sure, everyone dreams of walking up to that one co-worker they can’t stand, giving them a piece of their mind, and then announcing their resignation. While this may sound cathartic, you have severed one node in your network that may have come in handy down the road.

Bottom line: treat everyone with respect and civility, even if you don’t necessarily like them.

5. Consider any job unimportant

Your network is watching you, sizing up your generosity and friendliness, selflessness or selfishness. No matter how nice they are, they will have a hard time giving you a convincing recommendation if they know deep down that you fooled around or sloughed on your responsibilities. They may conveniently forget to pass on your resume and delay it. But you can’t really blame them-after all, you didn’t give them much to root for.

What are some networking faux pas you try to avoid? Share the goods in the comments below!

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